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Anscombe: "We can rest over the weekend and smile, knowing we're back on top"

Ulster’s home playoff destiny is securely in their hands after they recorded an emphatic, bonus point win over Newport Gwent Dragons.

Let's hug it out: Craig Gilroy and Stuart Olding.
Let's hug it out: Craig Gilroy and Stuart Olding.
Image: ©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd

ULSTER COACH MARK ANSCOMBE reflected on a ‘pretty messy’ second-half against Dragons before cheering up and plotting a home semi-final in the Pro12 playoffs.

The northerners walloped the Welsh side 31-5 at Ravenhill last night and secured a bonus point for four tries, scored by Tommy Bowe, Stuart Olding, Darren Cave and Paul Marshall. The win, combined with a loss for Glasgow Warriors, means Ulster will go into the final two weeks of the season as league leaders.

Anscombe told TheScore.ie, “I’m happy we got a bonus point win. We haven’t done that for a little while. We couldn’t do more than that; no matter who we play we can’t walk away with any more than five points.” He added:

We loosened up a bit… we know we’re better than that and we’ve got to be. It’s good to see guys getting back to back games. They’re going to be better for that. “

The Kiwi confirmed that prop John Afoa will be available for selection for the rest of the season and the biggest concern ahead of the Connacht game next week is Iain Henderson, who tweaked his ankle. Asked if Paddy Jackson would be back next week, Anscombe said, ‘Yep, yep, yep.”

Olding’s new tricks

Anscombe thanked Scarlets for their ‘big favour’ in defeating Glasgow to give Ulster breathing room and realistic hopes of a home semi-final. Unfortunately for Munster, the win for the Welsh side last night ends their playoff hopes.

The coach commented, “It’s been well documented about what has happened [league and Heineken Cup defeats] in recent weeks but the guys have stayed confident. They’ve had a good week and trained with a bit of intensity during the week; there was a bit of grit. There’s unfinished work here, you know.

We can rest over the weekend and smile, knowing we’re back on top. We don’t want to let that slip again like we did last time.”

Stuart Olding dives over for his third try of the season. (©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd)

Anscombe believes Ulster have a good chance of finishing their season on a high if competition for places remains high. With that in mind, he spoke highly of 20-year-old centre Stuart Olding, who dived over in the corner for his third try of the season.

“He was outstanding tonight,” said Anscombe, “as he has been all year. He’s taken his chances. You could argue that he’s been our form 12 this year.”

“It’s class to get another try at Ravenhill,” Olding told TheScore.ie. ”It’s always good to get on the scoresheet. It came from good work from Tommy [Bowe] and the rest of the boys. I was just lucky to be on the end of it.

Competition is fierce at the minute for 12. It’s disappointing with Paddy [Wallace] being out, with his knee. He’s been great with me on and off the pitch. With Luke, I’ve been knocked out and concussed in the past. It is very frustrating; you think you can play when you can’t. I’m just trying to take my opportunities and earn my spot.”

Asked if he thought he could make it onto Ireland’s tour of North America this summer, Olding replied, “I’m just trying to concentrate on keeping my spot at Ulster.”

*Additional reporting by Megan Joyce of the Front Row Union

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Patrick McCarry

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